Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Tea Plant
Camellia sinensis

Family: Theaceae (tee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Camellia (kuh-MEE-lee-a) (Info)
Species: sinensis (sy-NEN-sis) (Info)

Synonym:Thea sinensis
Synonym:Camellia thea
Synonym:Thea viridis
Synonym:Thea bohea

» View all varieties of Camellias

8 vendors have this plant for sale.

79 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall
Late Fall/Early Winter

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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11 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Handini On Jun 19, 2014, Handini from Greensboro, NC wrote:

I live in Greensboro, NC (Zone 7). Last October I bought a Camellia sinensis from a local nursery. They were tossed in the corner and looked neglected. Nevertheless, I planted it against a fence where the fence is situated the east side of the Camellia.

Shortly thereafter, we had our coldest winter season for North Carolina in the past 119 years. There was one day in January where the temperature dipped down to 7 degrees F, the coldest I've seen for this area since I moved here 24 years ago. I placed a lawn bag over the plant for the couple days of severe cold to protect it-just to be on the safe side since the tea was recently planted there. It survived.

One thing I noticed is that the side of the plant away from the fence had died but the rest of the plant is growing. There appear to be a couple tiny seedlings below it, likely from the blossoms that it boasted at the time I bought it.

While different web sites report different hardiness zones ranging from 6b to zone 9, the reality is that Camellias are readily grown in zone 7 and there are a couple Camellia nurseries I know of in this area. One is a wholesale nursery just north of Greensboro the other one is in Chapel Hill, NC.

Considering this past winter to be one of the coldest on record, It is apparent that zone 6b would indeed be the coldest climate that one would want to grow a Camellia sinensis in the ground. Of course, if it doesn't have a lot of leaves like mine, it may not survive in a zone 6b winter but if it has a lot of leaves to shelter out the cold from the roots and trunk it should do just fine.

Positive wtliftr On May 19, 2013, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

definitely hardy to zone 7/8... there's a specimen (or at there was several years ago) at the UNC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC. Hoping to have one in my yard soon, but my yard gets a bit colder than what the local thermometer says. Plus, I'm an hour east of Chapel Hill, enough to make about a one week difference in the early bloomers every year. Here's to hoping!

Positive RosemaryK On Mar 3, 2013, RosemaryK from Lexington, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Some ratings I have seen even allow growth in zone 6 for certain cultivars. Also, I doubt it needs full sun during the winter in a colder zone. I'm going to try to overwinter one in a pot outdoors (stacked with my other camellia pots) next year

Positive CrispyCritter On Nov 30, 2011, CrispyCritter from Clayton, GA wrote:

Just one comment: USDA zone 11???

Everywhere else I look these are rated zone 7-8.
These are much more hardy than DG is listing here.

Positive antipex On Nov 29, 2010, antipex from Gresham, OR wrote:

I grew my plants from seeds last year, originally in pots, down in Cupertino, California (zone 9). This year I brought them to Portland, Oregon (zone 8) and planted them in the ground.

Last week we had a prolonged freeze down to 14F on multiple nights (with daytime temps below freezing) and all of my plants are completely fine. There is no sign of damage at all.

Positive CraftedbyCarol On Nov 3, 2009, CraftedbyCarol from Happy Valley, OR (Zone 8a) wrote:

I live in the southern gulf islands of British Columbia, Canada. It grows very well here. We are zone 8+. I have not personally harvested any tea from it yet, but I am looking forward to it, as I drink mostly green tea.

Positive buyabutterfly On Nov 2, 2009, buyabutterfly from Brooker, FL wrote:

Butterflies will use the blooms as a nectar source.

Positive KanapahaLEW On Nov 2, 2009, KanapahaLEW from Alachua, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Camellia sinensis has grown for many years outside at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens (zone 8b/9a), enduring yearly frosts in the mid 20s and even 18F last winter with no damage. It is rated to zone 8 by several sources. Seeds can take 2 to 5 months to germinate so have patience and don't let them dry out from the time they are collected through germination. While plants enjoy moisture, they will not flourish in poorly-drained areas.

Positive Okazaki On Jul 28, 2007, Okazaki from Farmington, NM wrote:

This is a great plant to grow in a container if you live in the Southwestern part of the United States. I grew my tea plants from seeds and have not had a single problem with them so far.

Quick notes:
1. Make sure that you soak the seeds for 24 hours before you plant them.
2. Tea plants take about 4-5 weeks to sprout.
3. Always keep the soil moist, but well drained.
4. Tea plants seem to be sensitive to slight over-fertilization.
5. They love full sunlight, however, growing them in the shade helps the leaves develop flavor.

Positive 1cros3nails4gvn On Feb 19, 2007, 1cros3nails4gvn from Bluffton, SC (Zone 9a) wrote:

there is a tea plantation just outside of Charleston, SC that is in operation and is owned by the Bigelow Tea company. it produces wonderful tea with a unique taste that only the Lowcountry of South Carolina can supply. the tea is a more reddish-brown color than most tea. the tea plant is hardy to zone 8.

Positive Monocromatico On Aug 14, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

This is the famous tea plant, one of the most economically important plants of the world. From the young leaves they make the tea. In China, its been used for over than 2500 years for its medicinal properties, probably. These properties are now largely studied by scientists, and researches show that ceratin substances in the tea can be used against epilepsia, emotional disturbs and cancer. They also found out that certain tea substances are toxic against Staphylococcus, and others are efficient against Influenza viruses and HIV, breaking their reproduction process.

This is a 2m tall shrub with dark green, hard and shiny leaves with serrated borders, making a beautiful foliage. The newer leaves are tender, light green. Flowers are rather smaller than other Camellias, white, with lots of stamens. Bees seem to like the pollen.

It likes full sun, but tolerates some shade. Plant it on moist, organic soil.

Edit: I have to add that recently I have found records of unidentified Theaceae plants collected in the forests of Rio de Janeiro. I identified them as Camellia sinensis, based on pictures, living and herborized specimens. Also, recently some tea plants were spotted growing wild in the mountains north of here. This means that this wonderful species escaped from cultivation (as it was cultivated here in the 19th century) and is showing itself very adapted to the cooler and humid climate of the mountains in the Rio de Janeiro state, very very far from its natural habitat. Right now I have a volunteer seedling resting on the table by my side.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Mobile, Alabama
Long Beach, California
Brooker, Florida
Dunnellon, Florida
Eustis, Florida
Gainesville, Florida
Hampton, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Venice, Florida
Lula, Georgia
Kurtistown, Hawaii
Coushatta, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Waynesboro, Mississippi
Brooklyn, New York
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
Coos Bay, Oregon
Gresham, Oregon
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Columbia, South Carolina
Dillon, South Carolina
Hartsville, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Okatie, South Carolina
Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina
Blaine, Washington
Bremerton, Washington
Bryn Mawr-skyway, Washington

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